The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Man Who Wasn’t There</strong> (2001)

(In theaters, November 2001) Most Coen-Brothers films take at least two viewings to appreciate, but even knowing that, The Man Who Wasn’t There remains a disappointment. Oh, it starts well enough, with an unremarkable protagonist slowwwly being sucked in a web of criminal acts. But then the Brothers get weird on us, and in short order we’re asked to juggle a noir storyline with elements of aliens, oral sex and ironic punishment. I know, I know; it sounds good on paper, but doesn’t translate as well on-screen. It would be foolish to deny the depth of the screenplay, what with its constant return to the conformity of the American dream. Nor would it be useful to ignore the visual polish of the black-and-white cinematography, which gives rise to some powerful imagery. But with its languid and divergent second half, The Man Who Wasn’t There tests even the most indulgent viewer and diminishes its impact. A second viewing will be useful… but can wait a few years.

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